Former Premier League player named head coach of Hong Kong national team

Hong Kong

Former Finland and Latvia national team manager Mixu Paatelainen has been announced as the new head coach of the Hong Kong national team.

Paatelainen played for a hosts of clubs including Dundee United, Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Hibernian during his two-decade-long professional career.

The now 52-year-old helped Bolton win promotion to the English top flight in 1994 and became the first Finnish footballer to play in the Premier League after its rebranding in 1992.

He also represented Finland at the international level winning 70 caps for his nation. Paatelainen has also managed Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Dundee United and Thai League 2 outfit Ubon United FC as coach at the club level.

The former Finland international will prepare Hong Kong as they head into the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and 2019 EAFF E1 Championship later this year.

Hong Kong are part of the four-team EAFF Championship, to be held in December 2019, along with hosts Korea Republic, Japan and China PR.


2019 EAFF E1 Championship fixtures revealed; Japan to face China PR in opener

EAFF Championship Korea China Japan

Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan will face China PR in the opening fixture of the 2019 EAFF E1 Championship to be held in Busan, Korea Republic on December 10.

Hosts and reigning Korea Republic will face Hong Kong in their opener on December 11. Hong Kong had made it to the finals of the tournament after finishing ahead of DPR Korea, Chinese Taipei and Mongolia in the second preliminary round held back in November 2018.

Hong Kong will then face Japan on December 14 while the South Koreans take on China PR, currently coached by Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro, on December 15.

The final set of fixtures in the men’s competition will see Hong Kong face China PR while Korea Republic take on Japan in a heavyweight clash.

Korea Republic had finished ahead of hosts Japan to emerge as the champions of East Asia in the previous edition of the tournament held in 2017.

The women’s event will also be held simultaneously with Korea Republic, China PR, Japan and DPR Korea the participating nations.

EAFF E1 Championship Men’s fixtures: 

December 10 – China PR vs Japan

December 11 – Korea Republic vs Hong Kong

December 14 – Japan vs Hong Kong

December 15 – Korea Republic vs China PR

December 18 – Hong Kong vs China PR

December 18 – Korea Republic vs Japan

AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 winners to face Asian giants Korea Republic in inaugural Champions Trophy

South Korea EAFF AFF Vietnam AFF Suzuki Cup

Asian heavyweights Korea Republic are set to face the winners of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 final between Malaysia or Vietnam in March 2019.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) and East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) regarding this in a meeting held at Hanoi in Vietnam on December 15.

According to the MoU, the winners of the AFF Suzuki Cup will now play the winners of the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in a new competition that has been named the AFF-EAFF Champions Trophy and will be held every two years.


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#대한민국_축구_대표팀 내년 3월 26일 스즈키컵 우승팀과 A매치 확정! . ‘2017년 동아시아연맹컵(E-1 챔피언십) 우승팀인 대한민국과 2018 AFF(동남아시아축구연맹) 스즈키컵 우승팀이 내년 3월 26일 경기를 갖습니다. 경기는 스즈키컵 우승팀의 국가에서 단판 승부로 열리며, 경기 명칭은 ‘2019 AFF-EAFF 챔피언스 트로피’입니다. 스즈키컵 우승팀은 오늘밤 베트남 하노이에서 열리는 베트남과 말레이시아의 결승2차전에서 가려집니다. 협약에 따라 양 연맹의 대회 우승팀간 경기는 2년마다 지역을 번갈아 오가며 지속적으로 개최되며, 두번째 ‘AFF-EAFF 챔피언 트로피’ 경기는 2021년에 치러질 전망입니다. 동아시아축구연맹 회장을 겸하고 있는 정몽규 대한축구협회장은 합의서 체결에 앞서 인사말을 통해 “두 연맹이 상호 축구발전을 위한 협력을 약속한 이후, AFF-EAFF 챔피언스 트로피 경기 개최에 합의하게 돼 기쁘다. 두 연맹의 우호관계가 국제축구연맹(FIFA)에 소속된 각 지역연맹 중 가장 성공적인 모범 사례가 될 것이라 확신한다”고 말했습니다!

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The first edition of the Champions Trophy is to be held in March next year with the current EAFF champions South Korea facing the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champions who will be crowned during the second leg of the final to be held at My Dinh Stadium on Saturday.

The first Champions Trophy will be held on March 26, 2019 at the home ground of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champions — which will be either Vietnam’s My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi or Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, the second AFF-EAFF Champions Trophy will be held in 2021.

“We are glad to have agreed to hold the AFF-EAFF Champions Trophy match after the two federations have promised to cooperate in the development of each others’ football. I am confident that the friendship of the two federations will be one of the most successful examples of partnership between regional federations in FIFA,” said Chung Mong-gyu, president of the EAFF.

The EAFF consists of some of the giants of Asian football in South Korea, China and Japan among others who compete against each other in the EAFF E-1 Championship every two years. The next edition of the EAFF Championship is to be held in South Korea on December 2019.

AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: Azkals defeat Mongolia 3-1 in training match

AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 scrimmage Philippines v Mongolia

In a closed-door scrimmage this afternoon in the province of Cavite, South of Metro Manila, the Philippine Azkals notched a 3-1 win over the Mongolian National Football Team as the Southeast Asians prepare for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018.

The Mongolians are also in the midst of their own preparations for the second preliminary round of the EAFF E-1 Football Championship.

The Mongolian Football Federation posted the summary of what happened in the particular scrimmage with the EAFF team ending the match in a loss against Sven-Goran Eriksson’s wards.

It is to note that the Mongolian national team’s current head coach, Michael Weiss, was a former gaffer for the Southeast Asian squad.

Mongolia are set to face North Korea in their second preliminary round of the EAFF Championship on November 11, 2018.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Azkals are going to commence their AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign with a match against Singapore on November 13, 2018.

Photo Credit: Mongolian Football Federation

Japan’s EAFF E-1 campaign leaves more questions than answers

Scott McIntyre Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre looks back at the recent EAFF E-1 championships and its implications for Japan ahead of next year’s World Cup in Russia.

With the usual indifference that flows from parts of Europe towards the FIFA Club World Cup in full force again this week, you’d have to wonder what those same skeptics would’ve made of the largely irrelevant East Asian Cup that wound to a close in Tokyo over the weekend.

Rebranded as the EAFF E-1 Football Championships, which sounds more like a complicated mathematics problem than a sporting event, the tournament used to be a big deal in North Asia but the last couple of editions have seen the standard of players and play drop remarkably at the same time as off-field interest dwindles.

The biennial event saw the first two matches in the men’s competition draw barely 20,000 supporters while even what should have been a headline Saturday night clash between two fierce regional rivals in Japan and South Korea failed to fill the home stadium of J.League club FC Tokyo in a match where the Koreans thrashed the hosts 4-1 to win the ‘title.’

Given that the event falls outside of an official FIFA window in effect though the competition became a glorified ‘all-stars’ clash between the best domestic players from China, Korea and Japan with North Korea drawing several of their squad from mid-tier J2 sides in the host nation.

You just have to wonder what the whole point of it is.

Looking for answers?

Those same questions can also be applied to the ‘sub federation’ that organises this event with the ten-member East Asian grouping seemingly far more effective as – and focused on being – a bloc that tries to wield political influence than one that actually does very much of anything to advance the game from Macau up to Mongolia.

Surely there needs to be a sharpening of the focus as to just what this tournament wants to be if it is to continue with a shifting to a ‘FIFA window’ one logical proposal but if it stays in the current December timeframe then it makes complete sense to turn it into a youth event that is ideal given it falls just one month before the AFC U22 Championships which on every second occasion serve as the Olympic qualifiers.

Whilst it’s hard to draw too many lessons from the current edition at least Japan and South Korea can try to justify that it was an important exercise in perhaps gleaning ideas as to a handful of players that may end up filling the final couple of spots in their respective squads for Russia.

On that count the Japanese coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, made some rather unusual squad and matchday selections and surely – even this close to the World Cup – there have to be gathering questions as to whether he remains the best man to lead Japan at the World Cup.

With the exceptional Marcelo Bielsa suddenly available there are sure to be plenty of nations yet to have a fully settled coach at the helm casting glances his way and if ‘El Loco’ got his hands on this group of Japanese players there’s a sense that he could do something special – the same could equally apply to their Asian rivals Australia who must also be doing all they can to bring the Argentine down under.

For now though Halilhodzic remains in charge, but given that the only victories that the Bosnian has overseen in recent times were hugely fortunate ones against New Zealand as well as over the domestic squads of North Korea and China in the past week surely the JFA must at least be looking at the option of moving on if they want to emerge from what is a fairly soft World Cup group that saw them drawn with Colombia, Senegal and Poland.

For the East Asian Cup he made the correct call in naming the brilliant young goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura and then started him in the opening match before making the bizarre decision to drop him for the second in favour of veteran Gamba Osaka custodian Masaaki Higashiguchi only to recall him for the final fixture.

Outside of that the composition of the squad had several unusual call-ups – handing an international debut to 32-year-old left back Shuto Yamamoto, recalling 34-year-old Yasuyuki Konno and naming others, led by 31-year-old Yojiro Takahagi, who have had modest domestic seasons ahead of other seemingly more talented options.

21-year-old Kashima central midfielder Kento Misao was a revelation for his club this year yet he played barely a quarter of an hour at the tournament whilst a player who, in my opinion, is the best young forward Japan has in Yuma Suzuki was completely over-looked in favour of players with a far more limited range of qualities.

Personality clashes with some of Japan’s more established overseas stars have seen them removed from recent squads and now with this poor showing and unusual selections from the domestic-based players to factor in as well it’s fair to question once again whether Halilhodzic really is the man who should lead Japan to the planet’s most important tournament next year.

If the JFA was to make a change that may well be the only piece of constructive news to emerge from a tournament that is fast fading from any kind of relevance.

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Korea Republic thrash Japan to retain EAFF E-1 crown

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Korea Republic retained the EAFF E-1 Football Championship on Saturday after cruising to a 4-1 win over hosts Japan at the Ajinomoto Stadium.

Entering the game top of the table with wins from their previous two games, Japan only needed to avoid defeat to add to the first and only EAFF crown they won four years ago.

And, after just three minutes, they were firmly on course to do just that when Yu Kobayashi fired them ahead from the penalty spot, after Junya Ito had been illegally halted inside the area by Jang Hyun-soo.

However, the South Koreans equalised in the 13th minute when an excellent left-wing cross by Kim Jin-su landed right on the head of Kim Shin-wook, who made no mistake in powerfully nodding the ball into the back of the net.

The Taegeuk Warriors then edged ahead ten minutes later after being awarded a freekick outside the box; Jung Woo-young stepping up and unleashing a sumptuous dipping effort past Nakamura from all of 25 yards.

Five minutes after the half-hour mark, Kim Shin-wook struck again to put Korea Republic firmly in control of proceedings with a neat finish, after being set up by a fine run and neat pass from Lee Jae-sung.

And, in the 69th minute, the rout was completed when Yeom Ki-hun lined up a freekick on the right and whipped it in low and with pace, with the ball appearing to take a nick of Kobayashi before nestling into the bottom corner.

The victory saw the South Koreans overtake Japan in top spot by a solitary point, sealing a record fourth EAFF E-1 title in the process.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s earlier game saw China finish one point above DPR Korea in third spot following a 1-1 draw between the two teams.

JAPAN: Kosuke Nakamura, Naomichi Ueda, Genta Miura, Gen Shoji, Shintaro Kurumaya, Kasuyuki Konno, Yosuke Ideguchi (Kento Misao 66’), Shu Kurata (Hiroyuki Abe 81’), Junya Ito (Kengo Kawamata 70’), Shoma Doi, Yu Kobayashi.

KOREA REPUBLIC: Cho Hyun-woo, Go Yo-han, Jang Hyun-soo, Yun Young-sun, Kim Jin-su, Lee Jae-sung (Jung Seung-hyun 72’), Jung Woo-young, Ju Se-jong, Kim Min-woo, Lee Keun-ho (Yeom Ki-hun 68’), Kim Shin-wook (Jin Seong-wook 88’).

Japan, Korea Republic to face off for EAFF E-1 crown

Japan and Korea Republic will do battle for the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship this weekend after beat China and DPR Korea respectively on Tuesday.

Korea Republic were first to be in action at the Ajinomoto Stadium and claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over DPR Korea.

Following a goalless first half, the breakthrough arrived four minutes after the hour mark when Ri Yong-chol – in an attempt to intercept Kim Min-woo’s left-wing cross – only succeeded in diverting the ball into the back of his own net.

Following their earlier draw with China, Tuesday’s victory leaves Korea Republic second on the table with four points and they are now the only side with a chance of pipping Japan to the title.

Japan maintained their 100 per cent record in the tournament by leaving it late to beat China 2-1.

It took the Samurai Blue 84 minutes to break the deadlock when Yu Kobayashi scored on the rebound from an acute angle, after his initial effort had been saved by Wang Dalei.

Four minutes later, Genta Miura made it 2-0 with a stunning effort as he received possession from all of 40 yards and unleashed a spectacular swerving strike that had Wang beaten all ends up.

China did reduce the deficit in injury-time when Yu Dabao converted from the spot although it proved to be a mere consolation, as Japan went on to claim the win that keeps them top of the table.

Japan survive DPR Korea scare to win at the death

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Japan got their EAFF E-1 Football Championship campaign off to a winning start in dramatic fashion after beating DPR Korea 1-0 with a last-gasp strike on Saturday.

Yosuke Ideguchi was the hero for the Samurai Blue as he popped up with a 94th-minute winner at the Ajinomoto Stadium, but they also had goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura to thank for a series of fine saves against a North Korean outfit that were determined to cause an upset.

As expected, it was the hosts who made the brighter start and they had the ball in the back of the net after 15 minutes as Shu Kurata latched onto Mu Kanazaki’s deft flick and finished past Ri Myong-guk, only for the strike to be chalked off by the offside flag.

But while Japan were enjoying plenty of possession, it was DPR Korea who looked the more dangerous of the two teams going forward.

Kim Yu-song was unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty in the 22nd minute after going down under a clumsy challenge by Shogo Taniguchi, before Jong Il-gwan sent a snapshot straight at Nakamura three minutes later.

Nakamura continued to be the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second half and did extremely well to keep out goal-bound headers by Pak Myong-song and Jong.

Jong was emerging as the North Koreans’ likeliest source of a goal as he continued to cause the opposition defence all sorts of problems.

He released Pak in the 70th minute but could only watch on in dismay as his team-mate blazed over with only Nakamura to beat, before being denied himself after getting in behind the Japan backline.

DPR Korea also had a goal of their own disallowed but, as the game entered its closing stages, the hosts mustered one final push in a bid to snatch victory.

They looked to have spurned their opportunity right at the start of added time; Kengo Kawamata meeting Shintaro Kurumaya’s left-wing delivery with a towering header that was expertly tipped over by Ri.

Nonetheless, in the fourth minute of injury-time, another break down the left saw Kasuyuki Konno nod a Kawamata cross back to Ideguchi, who unleashed an emphatic drive that took a slight deflection past Ri to win it for Japan.

JAPAN: Kosuke Nakamura, Sei Muroya, Shogo Taniguchi, Gen Shoji, Shintaro Kurumaya, Yasuyuki Konno, Yosuke Ideguchi, Yojiro Takahagi (Junya Ito 56’), Yu Kobayashi, Shu Kurata (Hiroyuki Abe 81’), Mu Kanazaki (Kengo Kawamata 71’).

DPR KOREA: Ri Myong-guk, Sim Hyon-jin, Jang Kuk-chol, Ri Yong-chol, Kang Kuk-chol, Ri Yong-jik, Pak Song-chol (Kang Kuk-chol 85’), Ri Un-chol, Pak Myong-song (An Byong-jun 77’), Jong Il-gwan (Jang Ok-chol 90’), Kim Yu-song.

Korea Republic denied by China in EAFF E-1 opener

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Defending champions Korea Republic were held to a 2-2 draw by China in the opening match of the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship on Saturday.

The top-tier international tournament in East Asia got underway at the Ajinomoto Stadium on Saturday, and it was the Chinese who took just nine minutes to break the deadlock.

A low cross from the right by Yang Liyu fell in the vicinity of Yu Dabao and, while he failed to reach the ball, he inadvertenly diverted it into the path of Wei Shihao, who sent a sweetly-struck first time effort past Kim Jin-hyeon’s despairing dive.

Nonetheless, it took the Taegeuk Warriors just three minutes to equalise when Lee Jae-sung broke free with a determined run into the box following a one-two with Lee Myung-joo.

Advancing on goal, the winger kept his composure to draw opposition keeper Yan Junling off his line before cutting the ball back to leave Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors team-mate Kim Shin-wook with a simple tap-in.

It looked as though normal service had resume when the South Koreans then took the lead in the 19th minute with the roles reversed on this occasion.

Latching onto a long pass over the top, Kim perfectly nodded the ball down to Lee Jae-sung, who did not have to break stride as he clinically into the far corner on his left foot.

Nonetheless, this was a Korea Republic side missing all of their Europe-based stars, including Son Heung-min, Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol to name but a few.

China would certainly have been aware of this as they came out for the second half resembling a side who knew they were still very much in the contest.

Zhao Xuri looked to have equalised for them two minutes after the hour mark when he made a late run into the box before firing away a half-volley, only to see Kim Jin-hyeon tip it over with a fine reflex save.

But there was to be no denying them in the 76th minute, as a left-wing cross from Li Xuepeng was met with a towering header by Yu Dabao in off the post, earning Marcello Lippi’s charges a share of the spoils.

KOREA REPUBLIC: Kim Jin-hyeon, Choi Chul-soon (Go Yo-han 59’), Jang Hyun-soo, Kwon Kyung-won, Kim Jin-su, Jung Woo-young, Ju Se-jong, Lee Jae-sung, Lee Myung-joo (Lee Chang-min 80’), Yeom Ki-hun, Kim Shin-wook.

CHINA: Yan Junling, Deng Hanwen, Liu Yiming, Gao Zhunyi, Zheng Zheng, Zhao Xuri, He Chao, Wu Xi (Yin Hongbo 73’), Yang Liyu (Xiao Zhi 65’), Wei Shihao (Li Xuepeng 46’), Yu Dabao.